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Place: New Poemsby Jorie Graham
Synopses & Reviews
In Place, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience—increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as "mere" subjectivity—aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable. Throughout, Graham seeks out sites of wakeful resistance and achieved presence. From the natural world to human sensation, the poems test the unstable congeries of the self, and the creative tensions that exist within and between our inner and outer landscapes—particularly as these are shaped by language.
Beginning with a poem dated June 5th, placed on Omaha Beach, in Normandy—the anniversary of the day before the "historical" events of June 6th—Place is made up of meditations written in a uneasy lull before an unknowable, potentially drastic change—meditations which enact and explore the role of the human in and on nature. In these poems, time lived is felt to be both incipient, and already posthumous. This is not the same as preparing for a death. It is preparing for a life we know we, and our offspring, shall have no choice but to live. How does one think ethically as well as emotionally in such a predicament? How does one think of one's child—of having brought a person into this condition? How does love continue, and how is it supposed to be transmitted? Does the nature of love change?
Both formally and thematically poems of ec(h)o-location in space/time, Graham's new poems work to discern "aftermath" from "future"—as the two margins of the form ask us to feel the vertiginous "double" position in which we find ourselves, constantly looking back just as we are forced to try to see ahead.
In an era where distrust of human experience and its attendant accountability are pervasive Place calls us, in poems of unusual force and beauty, to re-inhabit and make full use of—and even rejoice in—a more responsive and responsible place of the human in the world.
"Graham's 12th book continues in the strong vein of her recent politically and environmentally concerned collections (Overlord and Sea Change), but adds a powerful thread about a parent's apprehension that her child has grown and is inheriting the (broken) world. Graham remembers/ imagines, in her crenelated, consciousness-tracking style, that child swinging high on a swing set: 'you shall never enter/ no matter how long time is — never — / that gash you create in the evening air at your highest,/ your own unique opening/ which you can never fill,/ cannot ever crawl back through and out,/ except when that one moment comes and it will open and you will go....' Graham imagines herself as a child, too, when 'the world opened its robe/ and you/ were free to look with/ no sense of/ excitement, no song, it is so simple.' She may well be at the height of her powers here, having developed a style that is both expansively public and deeply private, solipsistic and encompassing, and always beautifully sensitive to the capacities and failures of language to transform the world. For Graham, life's most powerful experience may be ambivalence, as in competing passions, which becomes a startling kind of abundance: 'your blood is full of/ barren fields, they are the/ future in you you/ should learn to feel and/ love: there will be no more: no more: not enough to go around: no more around: no/ more: love that. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Grahams poetry is among the most sensuously embodied and imaginative writing we have.”
—New York Times
“One of the most important living poets.”
Place is a new collection of poems from Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham. An extraordinary American artist whom The New Yorker calls “a mesmerizing voice” Graham is renowned for poetry that is startling, original, and deeply relevant, and has been placed in the poetic lineage of such masters as T.S. Eliot and John Ashbery. In Place, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience aid us in navigating a world moving towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable.
About the Author
Jorie Graham is the author of eleven collections of poetry, including The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won the Pulitzer Prize. She divides her time between western France and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at Harvard University.
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